Class Of 1964 USAF Academy



al.jpg We all have a story to tell. The stories should all have the same ending if we manage to wake up and seek to find out what life is really all about. For anyone not having time for a lot of detail, here is the ending of my story. I discovered after 38 wasted years that God, who created me in the first place, wanted, like with all of us, a special, on-going, personal relationship with me through His Son, Jesus Christ. He had been patiently chasing me, and I finally woke up and caught Him. This is the difference between Christianity and other religions. The God of Christianity, who created us, pursues us until we wake up and submit to His calling. It is our choice, and many do not wake up in time or at all. In all other religions, we see man chasing God.

If you have the time and desire, here is my story. I was deeply moved by Kris Mineau's input to this publication and Mitch Cobeaga's testimony at our 45th Reunion Prayer Breakfast. We all have our separate paths back into the fold. Mine was not through a physical mishap like Kris, a business/family situation like Mitch, or any special sickness, etc. I was born with a physical deformity, a depressed sternum, leaving me without a very manly appearance or personal image. The teasing and torment that ensued did not cease until, as a high school student, I had a very special and delicate, for the times, operation to attempt to correct the problem. Once people saw the scars, things pretty much settled down. In the meantime, I felt I had something to prove; and that is what led to my downfall. I was not gifted with any special athletic abilities, so I pursued academics graduating at the top of my high school class. I was also an over achiever in the Boy Scouts receiving the Eagle Scout Award, the Explorer Scout Silver Award, the God & Country Award, and membership in the Order of the Arrow. I also attended Junior Leader Training Courses at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico and Schiff Scout Reservation, the national training center at the time for professional scouters, in New Jersey, and the 3rd National Jamboree in California.

After high school, I attended Georgia Tech for two years as a Co-op Student and was enrolled in the Air Force ROTC Program. To backtrack somewhat, my Father had received an Army Reserve Officer Commission upon graduation from the University of Illinois, and was called to active duty six months after I was born in 1940 and one year prior to Pearl Harbor and WW II. My first memories were of Camp Gordon, Georgia, and Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where Dad ended WW II as an Artillery School Instructor. After the war, he joined the Tennessee Army National Guard; and as a Battalion Commander, I can remember accompanying him on several weekend inspection trips to check preparedness of his Companies. On these trips, I got to ride in tanks, halftracks, armored personnel carriers, self-propelled howitzers, etc. Military got into my blood, but I wanted to fly. My college Co-op job was in an IBM Military Products Plant in Owego, New York, where they were developing the Titan II Guidance System and the B-70 and B-52 Bomb-Nav systems. From this experience, I quickly figured out that I would much rather operate/employ these systems than design them which drove my competing for and receiving an appointment to the Air Force Academy. I was not the achiever at the Academy that I had been previously which was a wake up call for me. As shown by your many achievements since graduation, you guys are an extremely smart and multi-talented bunch; and I have always been proud, thankful, and blessed to have been one of your classmates. At any rate, I knew my work was cut out for me after graduation if I was going to get ahead, so I hit the ground running.

Next, after graduating from Pilot Training at Moody AFB, I just missed the last F-105 assignment which went to Milt Rutter (See Nick Lacey's input.). The Viet Nam war was cranking up, and with no upgrades being advertised for F-4's and not wanting to go to war in the back seat, I, in my arrogance, decided I would just take an RF-4C back seat to France, have some fun, and wait out an upgrade. As fate would have it, De Gaulle kicked all the NATO troops out of France after my being in country only four months; and I wound up at Mt. Home AFB in a pilot pool for Southeast Asia along with Ray Lennon, Al Mateczun, Gary Matthes, Bob Clark, Mike Clark, and Bob Keating. Fortunately, within a year, we upgraded and were on our way.

After about eight months at Tan Son Nhut Air Base, our Wing Vice Commander, Col Bryce Poe, secured interviews for three of us for the job of Aide to MG Royal Baker, the hurriedly assigned new Vice Commander of HQ 7th Air Force, after his predecessor was killed in one of our Wing aircraft. I think Gen Baker selected me because I was the only bachelor, and tour extension was not an issue. I also was the only AFA graduate of the three, the Academy was something new to the Air Force at that time, and he was curious as to just what the Academy was producing. He was a Triple Ace from WW II and the Korean War and had come to Viet Nam out of the Flight Test Center at Edwards AFB. We flew a number of combat missions together in the RF-4C; and he certainly did not need me as an Instructor Pilot in his back seat. When he was reassigned almost a year later, I worked for his replacement, MG David Jones, for a month or so while he found a new Aide. At the time, Gen George Brown was the HQ 7th Air Force Commander; and I just happened to room with his Aide, Lee Butler ('61). It had certainly come to my attention the level at which I had been working and the contacts that I had made early in my career. It was also in this assignment that I saw that senior officers did not have much of a life of their own outside of what might be considered normal work hours; and I began to seriously question whether I really wanted this kind of future.

After two years at Nellis AFB in the F-111A, which was mostly grounded, I applied for and was selected for a one year Pentagon assignment in the Air Staff Training Program (ASTRA) for promising young officers. During this tour, I got married and for the last six months worked as an Assistant Executive Officer for LG George Eade, the Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans and Operations. I am sure Steve Croker got me this job as his replacement when he was reassigned. Too bad his boss, LG Daugherty, left at the same time. I would also have liked to work for him; but, as we will see, the Lord had other plans. Coming our of this assignment, I was basically Shanghai'ed to SAC and B-52's. For a typical ego centered fighter pilot at the time, this was the ultimate mental kiss of death. Fortunately, I sucked it up, walked in the door of SAC, and, with the right attitude, went to work. It paid off; and I gained a healthy appreciation and respect for SAC, the multiengine community, and its pilots and crews which I would not otherwise have had. It was great serving with Bob Clark again; but, fortunately for him and unlike me, he was on an exchange tour and went back to TAC. After Armed Forces Staff College, this dual background brought me to the Air Force Military Personnel Center at Randolph AFB and as later Chief of the Aviation Service Branch in the Officer Promotion Division. We were basically Quality Control of all Air Force flyers being final review for all Flying Evaluation and Aeronautical Rating Boards and all drug abuse, human reliability program, conscientious objector, fear of flying, etc. cases.

It was at Randolph AFB that things began to change for me. Other than having one of the best bosses I ever had, Lt Col George Elsea ('60), I went through divorce; and my world literally crumbled and came to an end—or so I thought. Moving into an apartment by myself, I began to read books that had been unopened on my shelf for years. First, “The Late Great Planet Earth” by Bob Hovde's former neighbor, Hal Lindsey, then Pat Boone's book “A New Song,” and then David Wilkerson's book “The Cross and The Switchblade.” About half way through this one, the light came on; and I knew I had a lot of garbage in my life to reconcile. Getting down on my knees that night, I cried out to the Lord in repentance how I had made a mess of my life and asked Him to take over and see what He could do with it. You might say that it was rather condescending on my part; but the Lord fortunately saw my heart. At that point, it felt like the roof came off my apartment; and the Holy Spirit didn't just descend. He flooded the room bringing a cleansing flow like I had never before or since experienced. Needless to say, my life changed; and it has never been the same since. A genuine peace had come over me, and the excessive and driven life just disappeared.

The divorce did not go well, but a second experience on my knees brought assurance that the Lord would some day bring my Son, Whit, that I was losing in the divorce, into the fold. I met Karen about the time my divorce was finalized, and we were married a year later. The Lord has blessed us with two children, Joel and Anna, both of whom have graduated from college with honors. Whit is a '96 West Point graduate, now a Major in the Army Reserve, and attending Law School. Joel is awaiting a call for job interview as an FAA Air Traffic Controller. And Anna is a C-5 Loadmaster with the Tennessee Air National Guard leaving soon for OTS at Maxwell AFB and Air Force Pilot Training at Columbus AFB.


Christmas 2008

Al, son Joel (back row)
wife Karen, daughter Anna, daughter-in-law Paula (front row)

When later in my Air Force career I was passed over for O-6, Steve Croker hired me anyway and brought me to Blytheville AFB. In my final tour there on active duty, I served under: Steve with whom I had served with and followed in the Pentagon assignment; Paul Matthews who I went through Pilot Training with at Moody AFB and his Vice Commander, Jim Lemon; and Bruce Smith, who retired me. Bruce and I had been together in the same Basic Cadet Training Element back in the summer of 1960. What a great way to end a career. And being passed over was not the blessing I was able to understand and appreciate at the time. However, it enabled early retirement and a second over 20 year career as an airline pilot with DHL Airways and its spin-off Astar Air Cargo, Inc. Ain't God good? And His grace and mercy are still free for all of us who believe and turn our lives over to Him to run. We can't do anything on our own to earn or deserve this. Our salvation is free through the shed blood of His Son, Jesus. As our spirits live on for eternity after we physically die, the question we all must answer is where do we want to spend eternity—with Him or in eternal torment? We are challenged to, during our lifetime, to wake up and make the right decision before it is too late. And our group is not getting any younger.

On a different note and subject, during one of my B-52 SAC Alert tours at Robins AFB, I was one day moaning and groaning about how Henry Kissinger had sold our country out again in dealing with a foreign power. My Electronic Warfare Officer tossed me some audio tapes and said go listen to these. It was another wake-up call but of a different nature. As a result, I have now, for over 30 years, dug into and studied real world history; and it isn't pretty. None of what I was studying and learning made any sense until I also began to study Biblical prophecy particularly the books of Daniel and Revelation and the teachings of Jesus. Then it all fell into place. Christ is coming a second time; and events leading up to that coming include a prophesied one-world government (Think New World Order/United Nations.), one-world economy (Think one-world currency.), and one-world church (Think World Council of Churches.). Look back over the last 50 to 75 years. Think maybe this has slowly developed and gathered steam during our lifetimes?

We all took an oath as Basic Cadets and again as Second Lieutenants to support and defend the Constitution for the united States against all enemies foreign and domestic. At that time, it was easy to visualize foreign nations and domestic spies as those enemies. In reality and in my studies, I have learned that our real enemies have been and are today anything but that. The real enemies have no national allegiances and work together in secrecy, undercover, behind the scenes, and freely across national boundaries. They own and control wealth which you and I cannot even start to comprehend; and they use it to control political parties, governments, industries, natural resources, banking, and markets such gold, diamonds, oil, and other commodities. Their ownership and control of the major international news media helps them to maintain their cover and privacy. And their families work together and intermarry; and their operatives change their names to local names as they move from country to country to blend in with the local culture. Finally, they are also satanists, and this has been confirmed to me by someone who was previously deeply into witchcraft. This one fact shows that we are ultimately involved in a spiritual war, but we know who is really in control. However, we must recognize what is going on and refuse to live in denial. Our futures, our children's futures, and the future of our country are at stake. We cannot stand aside and watch evil and wrong develop and prevail. If we do, then we become a part of and party to that evil that is coming upon us.

As a parting note, I would like to challenge the Class of 1964. We must come out of our comfort zones, learn to think for our selves, get educated, and most of all get our relationship with God in order. Then we must use our remaining God given years to resist this evil as God gives us the knowledge and opportunities. We are still under oath; our country needs us now more than ever; the job is not done; and our service is not over. Will you accept the challenge?

May God continue to richly bless the Class of 1964.

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